megan galbraith   


fall 2001
p: john maeda
ta: ben fry & tom white
    note: this is a new movie! different from #4  

assignments #5 & 6
final project

3 december 2001

p1/Given the feedback in class and comments from other students regarding your ps4 presentation, implement your proposed communicating object with attention to finish, attention to intent, and attention to completing a realistic goal.


Musical instruments are intriguing objects. Their functionality depends on a set of well-crafted parts, each of which is tuned to a specific form and rigidity. It is the perfectly choreographed interactions between these parts that generate the tones, depth, and quality of the instrument's sound.

In addition, an instrument as a whole acts as a catalyst through which human interactions can generate music. This interaction between human and instrument is as critical to the creation of music as the interactions within the instrument, between it's parts.

My final project is an abstract visual representation of the interactions between the parts of an instrument, which simultaneously expresses their need for interactions with humans. The instrument I chose was a guitar, and my piece focuses on the interaction between the strings, the bridge, and the soundboard on a guitar. In order to understand the representation, one must interact with the object by playing it as though it were a musical instrument rather than a visual one.

The object is a wooden structure that stands on its own and contains three distinct areas. The top area contains two strings, which run from one side of the object to the other, disappearing through holes in the frame. When played, the strings initiate a reaction through the entire system.

The middle portion of the object is a two-layer acrylic disk that represents the bridge of a guitar, which carries vibrations from the strings to the soundboard where they are amplified into music. In this object, when the strings are played their vibrations are "caught" by the disk in the center, and carried away to be processed into visual music. The disks have a cup shaped design cut into them, which represents the act of catching and ultimately disposing information.

The bottom section of the object is a clear acrylic window, which looks into the monitor of a laptop. It is through this window that one can watch the rest of the system generate visual music. Each time the cup-shaped design on the center disk is turned upside down over the window, a small note falls delicately from the cup and hovers inside the window. it slowly dies away with time, as sound also fades away. The age of the note is expressed in its color, the brighter and more saturated blues are young notes, while the darker and less saturated grays are the older notes.

The object was constructed using plywood, acrylic, a rabbit2000 microprocessor, one servo motor, a miniSSCII board, an IBM laptop, and the proce55ing programming environment.